You would think that when you enter the world of animal rescue, you’ll be among friends. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone wants to save every animal life possible.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Most people involved in animal rescue, Trap-Neuter-Return, and fostering pets waiting for adoption are great people. They are selfless, they give up their own money and time and space in their home for needy, hurting animals, and they often take the “un-adoptable” cats and dogs themselves. They’ll do without to scrape up the money to take a sick dog to the vet. (Animal rescue includes horses, livestock, exotic pets, even wild animals kept as pets, but for the purpose of this post, I’m concentrating on cats and dogs.)
Town and county shelters are rarely no-kill. Many don’t even try to reduce euthanasia rates. Some do. A couple of years ago, the euthanasia rate at my local county shelter dropped dramatically when shelter employees set up a Facebook page for the most adoptable pets: the youngest, healthiest, friendly, trained dogs and cats. But old (10+) and sick (usually blind or FIV+) animals are usually the first to be killed, and that’s a shame. My mother’s cat just passed away. She was sixteen. Cats can live well into their teens. So can dogs, depending on the breed, and of course, regular healthcare. Even cats with FIV or feline leukemia can live comfortable, happy lives. They’re ideal for someone who wants one cat and has the money to deal with frequent trips to the vet. Blind cats and dogs often have sweet dispositions and can live with other pets. Adopting a blind pet involves patience and a few weeks of adjustment, but just because a pet is blind, old, or FIV+ doesn’t mean that they should automatically be killed.
Not everyone agrees. You run into some real oddballs out there in the animal rescue community. I had a lovely conversation tonight with a charming lady who claims to associated with a well-known organization with a kill rate of over 90%. She informed me that this organization has saved more animals than I ever will with my own pathetic efforts (I find that high doubtful considering they kill 90 out of 100 animals) and then told me that she had spent $16,000 in a single year on “rescuing” animals and she is the one people call in the middle of the night to take their sick old skeletal animals to this high-kill shelter. She told me that the fact that I have worked hands-on with a feral cat colony and donated money to NO-KILL shelters means nothing compared to the vast amounts of money and time she has devoted to supposedly picking up supposedly sick and dying animals and delivering them to a shelter where there is a 90% chance that they will be immediately euthanized. And also I don’t know how things ARE down South, y’all.
I live in North Carolina. I know more about how things are down South than I ever, ever wanted to know.
This person is one of the fringe element that seeks attention by claiming to have done Great Things in the area of animal rescue. This person will belittle any efforts you’ve made to help sick/homeless/starving/next in line to be killed at the pound animals. After all, she spent $16,000 in one year on what I don’t know . . . perhaps gas driving all over the entire state of Virginia 24/7 looking for the 90 unsaveable, un-adoptable cats and dogs out of every 100?
This is Sallie:
I met Sallie in 2006 when I lived in an apartment complex in the Pine Barrens of Long Island. All of the apartment buildings were single story except for the lofts. There were different areas of the apartment complex. We lived in one of the quietest, most wooded areas. It was like living in a cottage in the forest. A well-established colony of feral cats lived nearby. Sallie was malnourished when she started hanging around my apartment. I had two cats and when I saw the feral cats about, and other people feeding them, I started feeding them too. Sallie was malnourished, hair and bones, when she started showing up on my patio, eating dry kibble. I saw that she was malnourished but otherwise not sick. I started feeding her canned cat food. She put on weight but was still very thin as you can see in the above picture. Then she turned up pregnant.
I started giving her an entire can of cat food with a raw egg mixed into it every day. She kept gaining weight. I put a box out for her on my patio, behind the hedge where the maintenance men wouldn’t see it, but she had her kittens in one of the shelters that some of the neighbors had built in the woods. Sallie eventually turned up with her kittens trailing her. I had two cats. I couldn’t adopt another cat without risking getting kicked out of my apartment, but a neighbor who didn’t have any pets and a neighbor whose old cat had recently died adopted her kittens. This is one of her healthy kittens:
After Sallie’s kittens were weaned and adopted, I continued to feed her and the other ferals and to check their shelters when I was out walking. Sallie always stayed thin, but she seemed quite happy sunning herself on my patio. She was my outside cat.
This is Mika:
I adopted Mika from the Little Shelter in Huntington on Long Island in 2005. Little Shelter was and still is, to my knowledge, a no-kill shelter. I spent two hours walking around and around in the shelter with cats following me and I was overwhelmed and unable to make a choice. I left, cried in my car for a while, went back, and found myself in a room I had somehow missed before. Mika was on a shelf on a cat tree, at my eye level. When I approached the cat tree, Mika got up from her reclining position, walked out to meet me, and began to bitch loudly in my face. I picked her up, carried her to the shelter office, set her on a short two-drawer file cabinet, and told her to wait. I went and got a shelter employee. Mika was still waiting when I got back to the office.
Mika had been in the shelter for 7 months. The shelter employees told me that, because she was a solid black cat, she likely would not have been adopted if I had not taken her because people tend to look for cats with attractive markings.
I have two other cats, Kumo and Justin, “free” kittens:
Maybe they would have ended up in the pound if I hadn’t taken them? Who knows?
While I lived on Long Island, I contributed to a local rescue group, S.A.V.E.S. After I left Long Island, I discovered Alley Cat Allies. I’ve been contributing to them yearly since 2011 or 2012. Unfortunately not $16,000, because I don’t have that, but I make a yearly contribution and $5 here and there throughout the year as often as I can. I also have my own pro-cat page, Justin’s Paws (if you’re reading this post on that page, well, you already know about it).
I’m a very vocal supporter of Alley Cat Allies. I won’t hesitate to wade into an online fray and take on people who think they’re entitled to kill any free-roaming cats they encounter. I’ve gotten other people to join Alley Cat Allies. I do every little bit that I can.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’re probably like me. You’ve built shelters, trapped cats to get them neutered and ear-tipped, watched over a feral colony, donated small but frequent amounts to real rescue organizations, gone to town and county meetings and fought for transparency and accountability at town and county shelters. You’ve donated to no-kill shelters. You’ve sworn not to take in one more cat and taken in two more. Or dogs. You’ve bought extra food for strays when you could barely afford food for yourself. You’ve taken stray animals to the vet instead of taking yourself to the doctor.
Every little bit is what keeps the real animal rescue movement going. When you encounter those people who boast about the Great Big Things they do for animals and tell you that you don’t count unless you’ve personally rescued thousands of animals, ignore those people. They’re liars. They’ll turn on you and call you attention-seeking or drama-causing. That’s what we call projection. They’ll curse you when you question the veracity of their statements. They’ll give you orders (“come to where I live and step up to the plate”) as if they live in the ONLY place where animals are suffering.
These people can be intimidating, but there’s a significant possibility that they’re full of it and all of our little bits probably add up to more, in the end, than what they claim they do. No one who loves animals is going to turn on someone else with the same passion but not so much in the way of money and time. Anyone who is honest won’t be offended by honest questions, won’t get their backs up, won’t come into a discussion already hostile, and WON’T SUPPORT PRO-KILL ORGANIZATIONS.
If you want to come to my page, Justin’s Paws, and talk about the little bit you do daily to help cats and dogs, I’d love to have you and I promise you a troll-free, non-abusive environment. Animal rescue work is exhausting and we all need people who understand to talk to so that we can keep going.